I don’t think that I’m much to look at.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t think I’m extremely attractive, since anyone that has ever seen me would argue that yes, yes I am. What I mean is that I find it hard to believe that those who see me, fear my five-foot-something frame and small, aimless hands of a dyslexic child.
But I would like for once, just once, to go to an airport and not get the full security check-rubdown. And if they absolutely have to do it, maybe dinner or a drink beforehand would help me unclench.
In the past year, I’ve become somewhat of a frequent flier, going back and forth from school and work in Toronto to family in Calgary. I can no longer remember a time when I haven’t been picked for a “random” person and bag search. They take my things and tell me to follow them to a side table: it’s far enough to be out of the way but close enough for other passengers to look at you and tremble. “Boy, airport security is the pits,” their smiles say, but their eyes tell me, “Sweet Jesus, what if they don’t find whatever she has and she comes on my flight?”
They trick me every time. I go to security, empty my pockets, take off my belt and shoes and show them my boarding pass and passport. The man or woman calls me through the metal detector and lulls me into a false sense of security. “Hi there, ma’am,” they say or, “I love your shoes” or, “Your hair is just the cutest.” I giggle like a school girl with a crush. “Oh, my, you’re forward.” I’m inches away from getting the vapors.
Then, once I’m relaxed, they ask me to stand with my arms out while they rip my innocence (or what’s left) from me. They run the metal detector across my body, repeating innocuous phrases as if to diffuse the extremely public experience. “Alright, looking good, we’re just going to take a peak over here.” Either way, you’re still touching my butt.
It used to be easier. In the past three or four years, the amount of time any airline wasted on me was truly a feat. It went from asking for my passport at 10, to looking through my bag at 13, to knocking on the heel of my shoe at 18.
And as I turned around on this particular occasion, flying from Calgary back to Toronto, the woman pressed her hands against my back looking for a bunker of uranium-tipped missiles under my blouse while my mother watched from the gate, giggling as if to say, “Bet you wish you were as racially ambiguous as me, sucker.”
I wholeheartedly understand the need for strict airport security. In no way am I looking for Canadians to go through a tragedy similar to what Americans dealt with years ago. Still, I’m not reassured by the idea that others – others that may be a threat – are being searched with the same vigor I am. Perhaps if I knew what they were looking for, like what dangerous material can be placed inside the waistband of my jeans. Or how my bra’s clasp is a matter of national security. Or what they think is behind my kneecap.
If airport security is not more efficient, it certainly takes more time, and the laws of homeland security dictate that the longer a particular venture takes, the more successful it is. This is the same law that decided that we, as civilized peoples, won the war on drugs because it’s been years since we’ve started the fight. And as you know, no one anywhere ever does drugs at any point. Ever.
I feel the strongest sense of pity for those that are more racially decisive than myself. I wear no religious or cultural markings, like a hijab, so I shudder to think about what the woman that does wear one has to deal with.
Furthermore, I haven’t traveled to the States in years, and thus can’t imagine what their “security” measures have been in the last few years. I assume they would have asked me who I would save from a burning building between Ronald Regan and Jimmy Carter. Depending on my answer, they might roll me up in an antique rug and start whacking me with bats to get anything in or on my person to fall out while chanting, “Beat the lumps, BEAT THE LUMPS.”
It’s a modern privilege to fly, and even furthermore to be able to whine about what could be considered racial profiling in a minimally damaging form. But modern times mean there is a threat. It might not be the one expected and it very well could not be imminent, but preventative measures are necessary. My skin color doesn’t make me any less worried about the threat or terrorism, and I don’t feel safer.
The people that perpetrated the 9/11 attacks hijacked my physical appearance, and the way I’m perceived. They’re not my brothers. So why am I turning out all of my Chapstick and cutting it in half to show I’m not smuggling black tar heroin?
Because I have dark skin and a funny name. In modern times, that’s a goddamn reason. Now bend over.